Course Numbering System

Courses offered at Penn State are identified by departmental abbreviation and number. The course-numbering system helps advisers and students find appropriate courses. Numbers also differentiate courses that are appropriate for particular populations of students. Courses available to undergraduates are categorized by the following three levels.

Undergraduate Courses (1 to 399)

Courses below the 400-level are designed for undergraduate students. Within this level, other than common course numbers, there is not a university-wide standard for assigning a number to a course. Therefore, a higher number does not necessarily indicate a more advanced course (e.g., CMPSC 203 is not more advanced than CMPSC 121). To determine if a course is appropriate for a student, read its course description, which includes prerequisites (or contact the department offering the course for information).

400-Level Courses (400 to 499)

Advanced undergraduate courses, described in the Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin, are designed for juniors and seniors (students who have completed 60 credits or more) and graduate students. A student who has not yet completed 60 credits should consult with his/her adviser and obtain permission of the course instructor prior to scheduling a 400-level course.

500- and 800-Level Courses (500 to 599; 800 to 899)

Graduate courses, described in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin, are typically not available to undergraduates. However, there are exceptions.

Students in the Schreyer Honors College and seniors with a 3.50 or higher cumulative grade-point average may register for 500- or 800-level courses with approval from the course instructor (no other permission is required). To process the course add, the student must bring a completed registration drop/add form (including the course instructor's signature) to the Registrar's office.

University Park seniors with a 3.00 to 3.49 cumulative grade-point average may register for 500- or 800-level courses with approval from the student's instructor, adviser, and Graduate Enrollment Services. To process the course add, the student must bring a completed Request for Undergraduate Student to Take 500- or 800-Level Courses (including the signatures of the course instructor[s] and the student's academic adviser, as well as approval from Graduate Enrollment Services) to the Registrar's office.

At Penn State Erie, students may register for 500- or 800-level courses by completing a registration drop/add form (including the approval of the instructor and the graduate coordinator in the school offering the course). To schedule the course, the student must bring the completed form (including the approval signatures) to the Registrar's office.

At Penn State Harrisburg, seniors with a 3.50 or higher cumulative grade-point average may register for 500- or 800-level courses with approval from the instructor (no other permission is required). Any senior with less than a 3.50 cumulative grade-point average must complete a registration drop/add form and include the signatures of the student's instructor, adviser, and the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies (C114 Olmsted Building). To schedule the course, the student must return the completed form (including the approval signatures) to the Registrar's office.

Common Course numbers for Undergraduates

Certain types of courses share a common course number or may have a suffix, a letter following the course number. Common course numbers have been established for the following types of course work: special topics, foreign studies, some first-year seminars, research project courses, internships, and independent studies. Course levels relate to the numbering system described above. Multiple offerings of the same number may be distinguished by the use of suffixes A, B, etc. Authorized advisers can access course descriptions for some of these courses on ISIS screen ARUCU (to view, type in the course information and then press enter; use "F8" to scroll through the screens). Questions about common course numbers should be directed to the University curriculum coordinator (814-863-0996) or the department offering the course.


Reviewed: August 2013
Last Update: June 2013

Reference(s): Senate Policy 34-58

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